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28 October 2014

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One Foot in the Grave

Victor Meldrew, his wife and a gnome

This classic British sitcom followed the misfortunes of cantankerous old grouch Victor Meldrew as he railed against the injustices of the world around him.

The show challenged the traditional boundaries of cosy suburban sitcom, dealing with subjects such as death and old age with pathos and a strong overtone of black comedy.

Episode One saw Victor forced into early retirement from his job as a security guard having been replaced by 'a box'. 

Refusing to be cast aside onto life’s scrapheap, he determines to fill his unwelcome leisure time with odd jobs, new hobbies and putting the world to rights. 

Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew

However, like some Machiavellian force, the world conspires against him with its bureaucracy, misunderstandings and surreal coincidences, frequently landing him in all manner of ridiculous situations; from being legally prosecuted for attacking a vicious pit bull terrier with coconut meringues, to being buried alive in his own garden. 

In each episode Victor's ever-simmering temper at the unfairness of it all boils over into a vitriolic rant, occasionally preceded by his immortal catchphrase "I don't believe it!"

The role of Victor Meldrew transformed Scottish TV-actor Richard Wilson into a household name and award-winning comedy performer. 

So popular was his character that 'Victor Meldrew' has endured as a cultural reference for any grumpy old man. 

However, many viewers identified with his rages at the irritants of modern life: litter, junk mail, traffic, rudeness, streetlamps and car mechanics and to some, Victor Meldrew was a champion of the people, albeit a very grumpy one.

Wilson was joined onscreen by Annette Crosbie as Victor's long-suffering wife Margaret. 

Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew

Margaret struggles to maintain an air of patient exasperation as she becomes embroiled in his many crises, but sometimes she cannot help but vent her frustrations at her husband, whom she deems responsible for their many disasters.

Adding to Victor's grievances is Margaret's friend Jean Warboyes who, having latched onto the couple is often involved in their fiascos, when she is not boring them with her holiday snaps at inopportune moments.

Equally irksome to Victor is Nick Swainey: the local charity organiser and all-round goody-goody.

Despite being a frequent victim of misfortunes himself, Nick's (disturbingly) cheerful nature points him out as the antithesis to Victor.

On the other side of the fence live the Meldrew's neighbours Patrick (Angus Deyton) and Pippa Trench. 

Richard Wilson and Angus Deayton

Pippa and Margaret are friends for a while, but whilst Victor believes he is the only sane person living in a mad modern world, Patrick always catches Victor in bizarrely compromising situations and is convinced he is a menacing lunatic. 

Ironically, with his paranoid cynicism, in many ways Patrick is himself a Victor Meldrew in the making.

Penned by acclaimed comedy writer David Renfrew; with its outrageous comedy situations and experimentation with settings, which included entire episodes set in a car, a bed or a power cut: One Foot In The Grave was a highly innovative sitcom for its time.

The show concluded after 6 series with Victor being bumped off in a hit and run accident, having earned himself a place amongst the ranks of downtrodden comedy heroes such as Alf Garnett, Basil Fawlty and Edmund Blackadder; a tradition that continues with Larry David in American comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm.


Angus Deayton
Richard Wilson
Victor Meldrew
Annette Crosbie
Margaret Meldrew
Doreen Mantle
Mrs Warboys
Owen Brenman
Nick Swainey
Janine Duvitski


David Renwick
Susan Belbin
Christine Gernon
Sydney Lotterby
Susan Belbin
Jonathan P Llewellyn
Esta Charkham

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